Why Looney’s Unspectacular Uniqueness Is Priceless To Dubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Unlike his first foray into free agency in 2019, when 29 NBA teams shrugged and kept shopping, much to the Warriors’ delight, Kevon Looney this summer will have options this time around. .
Golden State is a heavy favorite, but you have to recruit like he was a star.
That’s how important Looney, as a near perfect fit in their offense and defense systems, has become.
“What Loon offers, which is pretty unique, is that it allows us to stay big when other teams are playing small,” coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “You have to be able to change defensively with your ‘5’ man. If you can do that and still have a big presence in the paint from a defensive and rebounding standpoint, now you’re cooking.
“Every team is looking at a big man who can make the playoffs, and there just aren’t that many. When you see that, combined with the elite rebound and health, man, has he jumped this year.
Only a few “centers” are at least occasionally effective in pick-and-roll situations, and the Warriors have two of them: Draymond Green (really a forward) and Looney. Other members of this club include Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers.
Looney, 26, is the only one unable to command a contract over $20 million per season (Turner’s expiring contract is $17.5 million). He is ruled out due to his relatively narrow shooting range and his history of injuries/surgeries that robbed his body of the ability to play long minutes consistently.
What happened last season, especially during the playoffs, was Loon igniting the widespread belief that the Warriors’ offense would stop if he and Draymond were on the floor. Winning the NBA Finals proved their presence had no ill effect on shooters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
With Looney averaging 24.6 minutes in the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Mavericks and the Final against the Boston Celtics, Golden State’s offense still achieved an offensive rating of 114.7 over the course of those 11 games.
“Because of the brilliance of Steph and Klay and Jordan, with their shooting range and the projection of Loon and Draymond, we can play them together and not have the spacing that most teams are looking for these days.” , Kerr said. “We can still be good offensively and really thrive defensively. This is where Loon’s impact is most visible.
Looney’s impact was visible in the regular season, but accelerated in the playoffs, where he achieved cult status within Dub Nation and solidified its position like a 16 game beast.
In the closing game of the conference semifinals against Memphis, Loon returned to the starting lineup and played a career-high 35 minutes, pulling a career-high 22 rebounds – six on offense in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors scored 13 of their 32 points on second-chance chances to send the Grizzlies offseason.
“They made it clear they were going to beat us, and they were doing a great job,” Green said. “Loon’s reinsertion into the lineup changed that.”
Looney averaged 28 minutes per game in the Conference Finals and, again, was huge as the Warriors finished off the Mavericks in Game 5, pulling 18 rebounds – including seven in eight minutes in the fourth quarter.
“Watching him become an elite rebounder was special,” Kerr said. “He’s always been solid, and that’s how our organization viewed him. Solid. But he’s way beyond solid at this point. There’s something for Loon to grab the rebounds.
“He gave us so many extra possessions in the regular season and in the playoffs. It is a crucial part of everything we do.
It is understood that 21-year-old James Wiseman is the center of the team’s future. He has only played 42 games since graduating from high school. He missed last season with multiple procedures to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The faith of the organization remains strong, but an element of the unknown persists.
Additionally, Wiseman has a very different skill set. As an athletic rim protector with shooting range, it would be used more as a complement to Looney.
There’s no mystery to what Loon brings. He has the confidence of his teammates. He won three championship rings and a huge pay raise. The warriors, as they try to bring him back, would be wise to show him an abundance of love because he likes ittoo.